Nilekani foresees smart phones with iris cameras

Bengaluru, Jan 5  With biometric sensors becoming popular and cheaper, Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani Monday predicted emergence of smart phones with iris cameras for authentication.

“As biometric sensors get popular and cheaper, the next generation of smart phones will have iris cameras built into them. In a year or two, we will have sub-$100 smart phones with an iris camera that does authentication of the Aadhaar number,” Nilekani, a former Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) chief, said at an international technology conference here.

Noting that innovations in information and communication technologies (ICT) have led to emergence of many devices like smart phones or tablets that can do fingerprint authentication using biometric sensors, he said by following the hour glass architecture, the UIDAI was able to build a set of financial applications to enable citizens avail the direct benefit transfer schemes into their bank accounts.


“The concept of hour glass architecture is important for scaling innovation on the application side and the technology (sensor) side, as evident from the Aadhaar project, in which we had the task of getting 1.2-billion people have a unique identification at a pace, which was sustainable and scalable,” he said.

Under the chairmanship of Nilekani, the UIDAI has been able to provide Aadhaar number to about 730 million people till date, as its platform has been built to generate one million unique identification numbers a day for diverse applications such as cash transfers, online authentication and withdrawal of money, among others.

The central government has also implemented an Aadhaar-based attendance system for marking presence of its employees across the country.

“When we designed the open architecture for the Aadhaar project, we looked at the internet and the GPS (global positioning system) model. Once GPS was put into the commercial domain, a host of innovations have led to using it for location-based services such as maps,” Nilekani told about 1,000 delegates participating in the 28th international conference on VLSI design here.

Demystifying the hour glass architecture, the former entrepreneur turned technocrat said innovations above and below the stem made such architecture powerful, leading to the development of internet, GPS, networks, WiFi (wireless fidelity), 3G and 4G.

“Development of GPS chips and applications for using it has resulted in making more of them, smaller, cheaper and innovative for application programming interface (API),” Nilekani said in his theme address on “Hour glass architectures for IoT (Internet of Things) Era”.

Observing that sensor technology and the IoT wee at the cusp of transforming many sectors ranging from healthcare to the smart management of cities, he said the latest technology was an opportunity to leapfrog on developmental solutions.

“One of the challenges in the financial sector is to combine accuracy with security, especially in India. The world over, a financial transaction is done using one factor (single) authentication, while in India, we have a two-factor authentication, which is complicated, as you have to enter something and get an OTP (one time password) and at the same time the security requirement needs a two factor (another authentication),” he noted.

In this context, Nilekani hopes smart phones with an iris camera will enable users to have a one-click two factor authentication, with the mobile subscriber number as one factor and the iris biometric authentication of Aadhaar number as the second factor.

“Biometric mobile phones will facilitate with a single flick consumer payments and peer-to-peer payments that will take us to a cashless economy,” he added.